“Plan For The Worst”
As our world looks for new forms of cleaner energy, our rural departments find themselves responding to calls we would have never considered 25 years ago. Consider the amount of wind turbines we see throughout our areas. The solar panels that we now find to be commonplace. I know of utilities now installing large battery systems as well. One of the larger facilities in my area is an ethanol production facility. Although all these new challenges listed operate at a very high level of safety, they do occasionally, require us to respond to incidents. With the increased skills necessary to do so safely we must continually train to meet these challenges. This past month the local ethanol plant hosted a drill with the assistance of local emergency management, department, the community college, and the regional hazmat team. This was a great opportunity to review emergency response procedures and skills.
The drill began with an overview of the plant and its procedures. As with any drill, they chose a very difficult situation. Although it may seem very unlikely the incident could happen, it was plausible. The good thing about doing this is that it allows you to plan for the worst and hope for the best. The scenario given was a driver of a sulfuric acid truck had suffered a medical event and backed into the pipes containing sulfuric acid. The result was a spill giving off vapor. The vapor spread into the facility where two additional victims were overcome. The responding units stood by in their vehicles at the gate. Time was required to allow for the response of all units. Not everyone would arrive together on a normal day, so we wanted to do so for the drill. The time spent waiting allowed an opportunity to gain information about the event. This allowed the responding units to utilize the Emergency Response Guidebook to plan a safe response. Once on scene, they put the plan in motion. The event required a structured incident command and decontamination system. When the hands-on portion of the drill was completed, a debriefing was performed. This gave an opportunity to determine want went well and what could be improved.
Upon completion, the department should be able to….
• Identify emergency plans in place at aa local facility.
• Gather intelligence while responding to a hazmat event.
• Utilize the ERG to determine a safe response to a hazmat incident.
• Demonstrate the use of an incident command system.
• Demonstrate the rescue of victims exposed to sulfuric acid.
• Demonstrate the use of a decontamination system.
• Provide medical care for victims of exposure to sulfuric acid.
Scott Meinecke is a member of the Sheldon and Granger Volunteer Fire Departments, Director of Safety for the Iowa Association of Electric Cooperatives, and field staff for the Fire Service Training Bureau. He can be contacted by email at email@example.com